Buying stuff for my kids is like an addiction. I have to mentally prepare myself to walk past the dollar bins of Target so that I don’t even look at their contents. My friends give me gift cards for stores and write in the card, “Use this on YOU.”
By no means do we need anything for these children. Between the grandparents, godparents and numerous other loving friends and family, our children are well equipped for every play scenario possible. But like most addictions I suppose, it’s all about the self gratification. I love bringing home a rare find that my kids will light up over, like the time I found Backyardigans plush characters at the Wee Sale, or a discontinued Thomas the Train character that no one’s heard of but my son adores. I love all the eco-friendly and education-centered companies like Hape, Green Toys and B. Toys. So many options for kids toys!
I think the obsession began back in high school when I got my first job working at a locally-owned toy store called BeBeep (now known as Franklin’s Toys). Before I got the job, I spent a lot of time in the store with my boyfriend (now husband) who worked there. I literally knew all about their products and helped customers who had no idea I wasn’t an employee. Once hired, I absolutely loved going to work. The owner, Jeff Franklin and his management team, had a love for the business that was contagious. Staff meetings were spent playing with toys and games.
Now Franklin’s is my go-to spot for presents for the many toddler birthday parties we attend. The staff there is great. They take me right to what I’m looking for, or show me ideas if I have no idea what I’m looking for. The rough part is leaving. The kids love all the toys setup around the store, like the train table, marble run and doll houses. They’ve been known to crash into a couple displays on the scooters.
Another locally owned shop we love is Edgewater Books in the South River Colony shopping center. It has the best selection of kids books. Owner Ken Kennedy is super helpful. One of our favorite books, “The Goodnight Train,” was a recommendation by him. They’re always hosting different fun events, and the clearance section is a dangerous place for me.
As much as I love the personal attention, unique selection and support of local small businesses, there are certainly times when I’m lazy and use my Amazon Prime account to get items quick and easy. I also frequent Michael’s or AC Moore for craft supplies and to snag a Melissa & Doug puzzle for cheap using a coupon. My guilty pleasure stores include Target and Barnes & Noble, which unfortunately for my wallet, also have pretty fantastic toy selections.
So as I’m straightening up the playroom for the third time today, I am grateful for all we have. I enjoy this time of spoiling my kids, but I’m dreaming of the incredible yard sale I’m going to throw in about 10 years!
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.